Lenape High School closes for in-person learning after 2nd COVID-19 case reported

The school will be closed Friday, September 18 as health officials investigate.

Friday, September 18, 2020
Contact tracing underway at Lenape High School after 2 confirmed COVID cases
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How long Lenape will stay closed will depend on the contact tracing done over the weekend, according to school officials.

MEDFORD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- All Lenape High School classes in Burlington County, New Jersey will be held virtually on Friday after a second positive COVID-19 case was reported in the school community.

Superintendent Dr. Carol Birnbohm says the school sent letters home notifying families about the cases.

In a letter sent home on Thursday, Principal Tony Cattani wrote the Medford school will be closed through the weekend.

Cattani said this will allow officials from the Burlington County Health Department "to thoroughly investigate whether there is an epidemiological link that could indicate that the two cases are connected."

Earlier in the day on Thursday, Lenape High School had sent a letter to students, staff, and parents, about their first confirmed case.

Later in the day, the school learned about the second case.

"Throughout the day, we have remained in close communication with BCHD officials as the status of this situation remained fluid and we gathered information to determine the best ways to protect our school community," Cattani said.

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The school year reopened with hybrid and virtual options, with Superintendent Dr. Carol Birnbohm noting that 80% of the school community wanted to return for in-person instruction.

The future of Lenape's learning model will depend on BCHD's weekend investigation on any possible connection between the cases.

"If these are unlinked cases, then the school would need to close for 14 days. If these are linked cases, then we would close at the direction of the Department of Health for the length and the number of days they would require, and it also depends on how widespread the contact was, so there's lots of variables," Birnbohm said.

Lenape sophomore Anthony DiDionato said this school year has been very different from a typical year.

"The most socialization I got was walking to class. And if you knew someone, you could say hi. But really no conversation other than outside of school or on your phone," he said.

School nurses were certified this summer to assist the Health Department with contact tracing.

"Our nurses have access to our seating charts and any other information that the Department of Health would need," Birnbohm elaborated.

The principal stated that if a staff member or student is determined to have had close contact (within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more), they will be notified directly.

The district noted that exposed surfaces have been cleaned and disinfected.

"We appreciate our community's support and cooperation. You can assist us by remaining vigilant but sensible in your approach to dealing with this health concern. As always, if you suspect you were exposed to a confirmed case, you should self-quarantine for 14 days," Cattani said.

All extracurricular activities have been suspended at the school.